April 24, 2018

Is Josh Beckett tipping his pitches to the Yankees?

February 21, 2011 by · 2 Comments 

Another View from the Lone Red Seat

It looks like the Yankees have figured out Josh Beckett, so much so that he’s tipping his pitches to them.  Over the last two seasons Josh Beckett’s ERA versus the Yankees is a lofty 7.45.  He has pitched into or beyond the 7th inning only twice and has given up 17 home runs over his 10 Yankees starts since opening day in 2009.

Josh Beckett has been one of the top front line pitchers in all of baseball since he burst onto the scene in 2003.  That season he helped the Florida Marlins defeat the Yankees in the World Series and was named Series MVP on the strength of his 1.10 ERA and complete game, 5-hit shutout which closed out the Yankees in Game 6.

But over the last few years, the Yankees have hit Beckett hard.  Even going back to 2009 when Beckett was 17-6 with an ERA of 3.86, the Yankees had a great deal of success against him.  His ERA versus the Yankees in 2009 was almost a run and a half higher than his overall ERA coming in at 5.34.  To Beckett’s credit he threw two great starts at the Yanks that season, one in June where he went six strong innings surrendering only one hit in a Red Sox 7-0 victory.  Later that season he had a no decision in August where he threw 7 innings and gave up just 4 hits in a 2-0 loss.  But in his three other starts he went a combined 19 innings and gave up 29 hits, 19 runs, all earned and had an ERA of 9.00.  In those 3 games he gave up 8 home runs; almost 1/3 of the total home runs he gave up over his 32 starts.  So in an otherwise dominant year for Beckett, his stats versus the Yankees were:

2 1 32 34 19 19 5.34 9 28 8

Moving forward to 2010, a season in which Beckett was plagued by injuries and was perhaps his worst as a pro, he was 6-6 overall with career high ERA of 5.34.  As rough as last season was for him it was much worse versus the Yankees.  He had 5 of his 21 starts against the Yankees and in those 5 starts he went 26 innings giving up 40 hits, 31 runs, 29 earned and had an ERA of 10.03.  He also gave up 9 of his total 20 home runs to them.  Summarizing his season, those 5 starts represented 20% of his total innings pitched but 35% of the total earned runs he surrendered and 45% of the home runs he gave up.  If you subtract the Yankee games out of his ERA it would drop by over a run per game, going from 5.78 down to 4.69.  Here is Beckett’s line versus the Yankees in 2010:

1 2 26 40 31 29 10.03 13 26 9

So the Yankees’ propensity to knock Beckett around would either be a sign of greater focus against him or perhaps that they’ve picked up something in his delivery that tips his pitches.  On opening day last year he gave up back-to-back home runs to Posada and Granderson in the second inning.  In his September start he gave up 4 home runs in 6 2/3 innings with another set of back-to-back home runs to Teixeira and A-Rod in the 6th inning.   In 2009 he gave up 5 home runs in his August 23rd loss.

So the question is, is it just an issue with Beckett or have the Bronx Bombers turned other top pitchers into a less than average hurler?  I took a look at the top AL Cy Young Award vote-getters over the last 2-3 seasons to see how they fared.  Starting with the 2010 Cy Young Award winner Felix Hernandez, in a season where his record was barely better than .500 at 13-12, he was 3-0 versus the Yankees with a 0.35 ERA.  During Roy Halladay’s last season with the Jays in 2009 he was 3-1 with a 2.70 ERA, which was lower than his overall ERA of 2.79.  Beckett’s teammate Jon Lester was also 3-0 versus the Yankees last season with an ERA of 2.13.  Cliff Lee was 2-0 with an ERA of 3.09 in the regular season and Rays sensation David Price was 2-1 with an ERA of 4.39.  So Beckett gave up more runs to the Yankees last season than King Felix, David Price, Jon Lester and Cliff Lee combined in 75 1/3 fewer innings.  Overall those four were 10-1 with an ERA of 2.49 during 2010 when facing the Yankees.  Zach Greinke has avoided the Yanks the last two seasons, somehow, but in 2008 he was 1-1 with a 1.83 ERA.  Justin Verlander was third in the Cy Young voting in 2009 and was 1-1 with a 1.29 ERA.  This may not be conclusive evidence that the Yankees have picked up something in Beckett’s delivery but it certainly puts me on that path.

To my semi-trained eye I was able to call about 50% of his pitches last season.  I was watching the speed and hesitation prior to his release and could frequently predict when a fast ball was about to come.  I could see the absence of that hesitation when a curve or off speed pitch was called.  If I can see it, I’m sure the Yankees are way ahead of me.  If he is going to get back to being a top-of-the-rotation, dominant pitcher he needs to get back to a consistent delivery and arm speed that does not give the batter an idea of what’s about to come.  It will also go a long way towards making the Sox World Series contenders this year.  To paraphrase my partner Dave Rattigan, the Sox are going to trot out the same five pitchers this year as they did last year.  They are going to need better performances from Beckett, Lackey and Dice-K in order to bring home their third World Series trophy in seven seasons.  A major factor is going to be Beckett and his ability to keep the Yankees and every other team from knowing what’s coming before he releases the ball.


2 Responses to “Is Josh Beckett tipping his pitches to the Yankees?”
  1. kapoor says:

    Josh Beckett vs Mark Buerhle. Will either pitcher break out of their cold stretch today?

  2. Based on Beckett’s attitude dating back to last September and his status as public enemy #1 in Boston, I would be on Buerhle getting it done first.

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